CEO Daily: Friday, June 19
China’s stock market bubble is popping – the Shanghai Composite index dropped 6% on Friday, and is down 13% for the week.
This is no great surprise, given that the market has doubled over the past year backed by an explosion in margin debt. And it’s not likely to have a big spillover into other markets, given the contained nature of the Chinese stock market.
But we still find recent developments in China troubling. The stock market collapse presages lower growth – probably well below the government’s 7% target – and low growth presages increased political tensions. Moreover, the backdrop for all this is a rapid souring of relations between the U.S. and China, over cyber attacks and aggressive actions in the South China Sea. If you missed it, go back and read the excellent essay by my former colleague Andy Browne in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. And check out new photos this morning of Chinese sailors posing on the newly built Fiery Cross Reef.
In spite of the tensions, though, business is still betting big on China. Jonathan Vanian reports that Cisco Systems is planning to invest $10 billion in China, following negotiations with the Chinese government. In May, Cisco CEO John Chambers said its sales in China were down 20%, following a round of tit-for-tat allegations between both governments about fears of networking gear being used for spying purposes. The big Cisco investment will be used to spur job growth and “promote a high tech industry in China.”
Is now the time to be doubling down in China? Send me an email with your thoughts.
More news below.
• Emergency summit in Greek debt talks
Euro zone leaders scheduled an emergency summit on Monday after European finance ministers again failed to make any progress on an agreement that would send more financial aid to Greece in exchange for that country implementing strict economic reforms. With the deadline for Greece's bailout expiration fast approaching, Euro zone leaders are scrambling to avoid a Greek default as accelerating bank withdrawals continue to siphon money from the troubled country. Reuters
• Activist investor calls for ConAgra board shakeup
ConAgra Foods is gearing up for a showdown with activist hedge fund Jana Partners, which just disclosed a 7.2% stake in the packaged-foods behemoth. With what is now the second-largest stake in ConAgra, Jana Partners is advocating for a boardroom shakeup, claiming the company's shares are undervalued. ConAgra, whose products include Slim Jim jerky and Hunt's ketchup, has been hit with losses recently while significantly writing down the value of its private-label unit following a disappointing, $5 billion deal to buy Ralcorp three years ago. Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• Twitter's new project for live events
The focus may be on Twitter's CEO situation, but the social media platform recently launched a new product that could be more user-friendly than some previous products aimed at advertisers. With Project Lightning, Twitter looks to get better at curating news from live events by collecting masses of tweets and content posted by users from the same place. While Twitter already provides a popular forum for messages related to live news and events, the platform had yet to provide an easy way for users to filter out relevant tweets. Project Lightning will include a screen allowing users to click on any number of live events taking place at a given time to access curated tweets and images. Fortune
• McDonald's U.S. store count shrinks
The giant burger chain said Thursday that it will close more stores than it opens in the U.S. this year — the first time that has happened in more than 40 years. The restaurant chain, which still has more than 14,000 locations across the country, is attempting a turnaround amid slumping profits that led to a CEO change earlier this year. The Associated Press
Around the Water Cooler
• Toyota's highest-ranking female exec arrested
Japanese police arrested Julie Hamp, Toyota Motor's head of corporate communications, early Friday. Hamp, who is the Japanese automaker's first senior woman executive, was arrested on suspicion of illegally bringing the prescription painkiller oxycodone into Japan from the U.S. With the company now in damage control, CEO Akio Toyoda voiced support for Hamp, who was appointed to her post only two months ago. Reuters
• China beats U.S. e-commerce companies in same-day delivery
Amazon may be getting all of the attention for its efforts to speed up delivery of a wide range of products, but Chinese e-commerce companies have been offering same-day delivery options for years — often for free. Online retailers Alibaba and JD.com each offer same-day delivery options to dozens of Chinese cities. Haoyu Shen, CEO of JD's Mall business, called the U.S. "a tremendous innovator" but added that American companies are "really racing to catch up" when it comes to fast delivery. Fortune
• Australia's outback could be a gold mine (literally)
A huge swath of the Australian outback, once off-limits and used for weapons testing, is now a lucrative target for mining companies that see a potential $27 billion jackpot in precious metals and commodities waiting to be found there. Miners BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group are among those with exploration licenses in the remote area that's about the size of Pennsylvania and has shown the potential for large gold and copper deposits. Companies are also looking for uranium, oil, and other commodities. Bloomberg
• Fed rate hike: September or December?
The Federal Reserve's interest rate-hike announcement will likely come in either September or December. But based on Fed chair Janet Yellen's Wednesday statement, that announcement could come later rather than sooner in order to give the economy time to gain necessary momentum. Yellen highlighted the unclear outlook on consumer spending, as well as the need for improvement in the labor market. Bloomberg
Five things to know today
From a Toyota exec's arrest to another fitness tech IPO, here are five things to know today. Today's story can be found here.